Despite an eleventh hour appeal to the US Supreme Court, Troy Davis, on death row in Georgia for 20 years, was executed last night, by lethal injection, at 11pm, local time. The Supreme Court took four hours to turn down his appeal for clemency, even though rumors had spread that his execution would be stayed, for up to a week, and that Justice Clarence Thomas — not a man generally known for his humanitarianism — was particularly interested in his case.
Troy Davis’s execution was not an isolated incident in the US. 34 death row prisoners had already been executed in America this year, and although the number of executions in the US is declining (from a 30-year high of 98 in 1999), there were still 46 executions last year. In addition, at the start of this year, there were 3,251 prisoners on death row in the US, and when it comes to executions, only three countries have more institutional vengeance than the US — China, Iran and Iraq.
Even so, Troy Davis’s case was particularly noteworthy for two reasons: firstly, because of the breadth of support he received from around the world, with nearly a million people calling for him not to be executed, in petitions that were delivered to Chatham County District Attorney Larry Chisolm (with many more also signing online petitions), and also because of the widespread protests around the world as the date for his execution approached; and secondly, because there were such profound doubts about his guilt. This, again, is no obstacle to execution in the US, but it was made a particular issue by the state of Georgia, as Amnesty International explained eloquently in a blog post on Tuesday.
Speaking of the rejection of Davis’s clemency petition by Georgia’s State Board of Pardons and Paroles, Amnesty wrote, “This appalling decision renders meaningless the Board’s 2007 vow to not permit an execution unless there is “no doubt” about guilt. The Troy Davis case is riddled with doubt.”
These doubts stem from the chilling truth that seven of the nine witnesses on whose testimony Troy Davis was convicted of killing off-duty police officer Mark McPhail in August 1989, have publicly recanted their statements. Despite this, however, the state apparatus of Georgia didn’t care.
Whether it was the particular details of Troy Davis’s case, or the fact that he somehow became the focus of a wider movement, both at home and abroad, against the death penalty, campaigners hope that his death will not be in vain, and that it will mark a turning point in the campaifgn to eradicate the death penalty, both in the United States and elsewhere in the world. Amnesty International has launched a “Not In My Name Pledge,” asking supporters to “pledge to fight to abolish the death penalty,” which readers can sign here.
Troy Davis’s final words last night, as his killers prepared to execute him, were directed first of all at the family of Mark McPhail. Maintaining his innocence to the last, he said:
I’d like to address the MacPhail family. Let you know, despite the situation you are in, I’m not the one who personally killed your son, your father, your brother. I am innocent. The incident that happened that night is not my fault. I did not have a gun. All I can ask … is that you look deeper into this case so that you really can finally see the truth.
After this, he said:
I ask my family and friends to continue to fight this fight. For those about to take my life, God have mercy on your souls. And may God bless your souls.
In remembering Troy Davis, it would be appropriate if all those who supported him “continue to fight this fight” against the death penalty, which has no place in any country that dares to call itself civilized.
And for encouragement, let us recall Troy’s own words, which he spoke in 2008, after his planned execution was stayed for the third time (he was scheduled for execution in July 2007, September 2008 and October 2008). That year, at the National Convention of the Campaign to End the Death Penalty, his sister, Martina Correia, who never stopped fighting for her brother despite suffering from cancer, read out a statement from Troy that included the following inspiring words:
There are so many more Troy Davises. This fight to end the death penalty is not won or lost through me, but through our strength to move forward and save every innocent person in captivity around the globe. […]
We must dismantle this unjust system, city by city, state by state and country by country. I can’t wait to stand with you, no matter if that is in physical or spiritual form. I will one day be announcing, “I AM TROY DAVIS, and I AM FREE!”
Never stop fighting for justice, and we will win!
Note: To find out more about upcoming executions in the US, and to take action to try to prevent any further executions, please visit this Amnesty International page.
Andy Worthington is the author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison (published by Pluto Press, distributed by Macmillan in the US, and available from Amazon — click on the following for the US and the UK) and of two other books: Stonehenge: Celebration and Subversion and The Battle of the Beanfield. To receive new articles in your inbox, please subscribe to my RSS feed (and I can also be found on Facebook, Twitter, Digg and YouTube). Also see my definitive Guantánamo prisoner list, updated in June 2011, “The Complete Guantánamo Files,” a 70-part, 700,000-word series drawing on files released by WikiLeaks in April 2011, and details about the documentary film, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” (co-directed by Polly Nash and Andy Worthington, and available on DVD here — or here for the US). Also see my definitive Guantánamo habeas list and the chronological list of all my articles, and, if you appreciate my work, feel free to make a donation.
[...] RIP Troy Davis: Your Killers Should Be Ashamed by Andy Worthington Share this:TwitterFacebookLike this:LikeBe the first to like this post. « Previous post Next post » [...]
On Facebook, Emma Smith wrote:
Joanna Lynn wrote:
Liked and shared.
George Kenneth Berger wrote:
This document of less than 30 words enabled the Final Act. Shouldn’t such a decision be accompanied with a public account of the decision-making process? And don’t answer by merely citing some law http://www.supremecourt.gov/orders/courtorders/092111.zr.pdf
Lizzie Cornish wrote:
I hope, when the truth finally comes out, if it ever does, that those who allowed this to go ahead are thrown to their own justice system to be dealt with…
Joanna Lynn wrote:
Perhaps you’re not acquainted with our justice system here Liz. They will never face punishment. We had a war-criminal president and the following admin refuses to bring anyone to justice. We just had that trial in Florida where someone killed their daughter and she walks free today. There is no justice for the underprivileged in this country. They wish to oppress and who will stand in the way?
George Kenneth Berger wrote:
I’m Digging this, Andy. See my pithy comment and link above.
Beverly Hendricks wrote:
Good to read these words, Andy. Reflecting on Troy’s death, I am only growing more depressed. How is it that this Country I live in, has stopped evolving with the rest of the world?
Joanna Lynn wrote:
Beverly: those in power refute evolution. Do not despair, this is the beginning of the struggle for many people. We need you.
Saleyha Ahsan wrote:
insane, barbaric and wrong — just wrong. its so scary that the power of people’s opinions count for nothing in the eyes of the state.
Joanna Lynn wrote:
It’s not our opinions that do not count. WE do not count in their eyes. Our lack of monetary funds make it so to those in the State. Yes, we need to seize back control of our country,not like those teawankers would have it, but as Justice and actual morality would have it.
Saleyha Ahsan wrote:
i recall the marches around the world against war in Iraq……we think we have a voice…..they let us think we have one, but we don’t really.
Dominik Spitzer wrote:
We have a very loud voice that is audible to all those like minded. Only our leaders are deaf to the real truth.
Beverly Hendricks wrote:
Thank you, Joanna. Truly. And Salayha, I hear you.
Thank you, my friends. I put this up, and then went out with my son to dinner with some friends. Far away from states and countries that delight in executing people whether they’re guilty or not.
And George, I was particularly impressed by your comment — and thanks for the link to the Supreme Court’s decision. “Imperious” was the word that sprang to mind. The Justices do the same with so many cases they turn down, and if it’s something that concerns me (as with Guantanamo, for example), I’m always shocked at how no explanation is apparently required.
George Kenneth Berger wrote:
This made me angrier than anything I’ve read or experienced in the past four or five years, Andy. I was calm but simmering inside all day.
Me too, George. I didn’t go to bed until about 3.15 last night — stayed up late watching Amy Goodman live. At that point, the police turned up in force, but I didn’t realize it was to quell any dissent because Troy Davis had just been executed. I thought he’d secured a stay, so I went to bed. It was clutching at straws, I suppose, as there was no savior on the horizon, no sign that the Supreme Court would actually stop this depressing judicial murder.
So this morning, I went off to my meeting with Caroline Lucas MP, and didn’t have time to read the news first, and I was deeply shocked when Polly (Nash, co-director of “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantanamo”) told me that he’d been executed. We’d finished our meeting, and had just got a coffee and walked down to the Thames, and as I sat there, with the sun shining on the river, and the news sank in, I felt profoundly depressed about what happened in America last night.
George Kenneth Berger wrote:
That happened to me too. My American friends were literally cheering online, with lots of exclamation points. Then I did some reading and went to bed. As soon as I woke up, I grabbed my IPad and was stunned. Then I saw a blog by a FB friend (“Exile on Moan Street”, Tim Niblock) to which he linked to the PDF in a comment. I decided that it was so horrid that it should be posted alone, not as a comment. I lifted it from the comment to the blog post and posted it. Got many reactions. Went to lunch. When I got home later, I decided to post it here, since I knew from last night that you had written something about the case.
Thanks again, George. I just checked your post and the comments. I can’t recall now where I saw the claim that Clarence Thomas cared about Troy Davis’s case, but on reflection I liked John H. Stevens’ comment to you about the “deliberations” of the imperious Supreme Court:
For all we know they sat there around a table and looked at the clock and said “OK, enough time passed. We have ‘deliberated!’”
Pauline Maria wrote:
We need to abolish a corrupt legal system…just watched an eye opening video, worth the time to understand details. The nitty gritty about trusts and history…also about the court function especially. You might already know these details I did not. ♥ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PNkvWvv-Dew&feature=share
Donna Ellison wrote:
Thanks, Donna. How I wish I hadn’t had to write it, though. And thanks also, Pauline. I hadn’t seen that. I’ll try and check it out.
We can help our pain by sending the Innocence Project $11.08 – recalling the time Troy Davis and a bit of each of us died.
NO MORE state-sanctioned murder!
So many horrifying details to this story. The doctors, nurses and guards at the doctor-owned EXECUTION company were begged NOT to go, to strike, to boycott, call in sick. Even at the last, the begging of the squad to be humane went on. The injection chemicals were imported ILLEGALLY, as ANONnep found out.
The rationalizations of Obomber’s staff were TOO much, too.
“Murder of Troy Davis was outsourced to a for profit corp CorrectHealth”. AND they made heavy campaign contributions to Georgia policians and ended up w/this $1800 “job”
The Middle Ages live on ..
This is just out, a nice summary of the legal status re the death penalty in the US.
Thank you very much, Virginia. Excellent information, to which I’d only add that people may also want to check out the work of Reprieve, who have been campaigning vigorously against both the States (inc. Georgia) and the British companies involved in supplying possibly sub-standard or inappropriate drugs so that the killer states can continue their malignant work: http://www.reprieve.org.uk/
There’s excellent background in that Jurist report, so I’m cross-posting it below:
Last year, Sara Totonchi of the Southern Center for Human Rights warned that the questions and doubts surrounding Davis’ case would make his execution a travesty of justice. Her writing came a few weeks after the US District Court for the Southern District of Georgia denied Davis’ habeas corpus petition even though the presiding judge noted numerous problems with the evidence presented by the State of Georgia in securing Davis’ conviction. The Supreme Court had instructed the district court to examine new findings of fact in the case after taking the rare step of granting Davis’ original writ of habeas corpus, despite Davis’ exhaustion of his appeals under the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act. A few weeks after the court had declined to grant certiorari in 2008, the US Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit granted a provisional stay of execution, directing the parties to address through briefs whether Davis could meet the stringent requirements of federal law that would permit him to file a second habeas corpus petition for federal review of his case. In 2006, the American Bar Association recommended a moratorium on the death penalty in Georgia and in Alabama after an ABA panel study identified numerous flaws in the states’ criminal justice systems that it claimed greatly compromised the fair administration of capital punishment. More recently a federal judge ruled in June that Florida’s death penalty procedures are unconstitutional, a holding Richard Dieter of the Death Penalty Information Center says highlights the arbitrariness of the death penalty and the problems with a state exacting an irreversible punishment. Additionally, in March of this year Illinois Governor Pat Quinn signed into law a bill that abolished the death penalty in that state.
On Facebook, Debbie Russell shared my article, and provided a useful link to a CNN roundup of responses from European politicians:
World figures, including Pope Benedict XVI and former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, human rights groups and commentators urged the execution to be halted — but to no avail. On Wednesday Davis was put to death by lethal injection for the 1989 killing of off-duty police officer Mark MacPhail despite doubts being raised over the conviction.
The execution sparked angry reactions and protests in European capitals — as well as outrage on social media. “We strongly deplore that the numerous appeals for clemency were not heeded,” the French foreign ministry said.
“There are still serious doubts about his guilt,” said Germany’s junior minister for human rights Markus Loening. “An execution is irreversible — a judicial error can never be repaired.”
The European Union expressed “deep regret” over the execution and repeated its call for a universal moratorium on capital punishment.
EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said the bloc had learnt “with deep regret that Mr Troy Davis was executed,” her spokeswoman Maja Kocijancic told Agence-France Presse.
‘”The EU opposes the use of capital punishment in all circumstances and calls for a universal moratorium,” she said.
“The abolition of that penalty is essential to protect human dignity.”
Debbie also quoted from Tom Chivers in the Daily Telegraph:
“If you are pro-death penalty, you should be shouting twice as loud as the rest of us about the imminent murder of Troy Davis,” Chivers wrote. “Otherwise, you can’t claim to be supporting a stark but necessary act of justice. You’re just a fan of killing people in general. There are words for people like that. None of them are nice.”
Thanks for the cross-post, Debbie. Much appreciated. I sincerely hope that the huge numbers of people involved in this campaign, both in the US and around the world, continue in their efforts to eradicate the death penalty.
It would be fitting for Troy Davis’s memory, and it would also demonstrate that, when we come together in large numbers, we can survive the knockbacks that so regularly decimate or destroy our movements.
I’m grateful to live in a country (the UK) that abandoned the death penalty in the 1960s, but I don’t forget that our anti-war movement in 2003, which was by far the largest ever seen in the UK, ever, with 2 million people filling London to resist the impending war in Iraq, were brushed aside like a single fly by Tony Blair.
Many of us — many hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions of us — never forgave him for that, but we failed to maintain the impetus of our 2-million strong movement. We went home instead of occupying central London.
So to effect change we need to maintain pressure, and we need to do it en masse. I’d like to see all those people who signed a petition for Troy Davis gathered in Washington D.C. to tell the President and Congress that they no longer want to be ranked with China, Iran and Iraq and state executioners, adrift from the progress made by other civilized countries.
You know, Andy – it’s almost comic to me that one of the most SENSITIVE, well written and intelligent blogs on the web (Arthur Silber another) doesn’t have a “like” tab.
So may I take a moment (while I am putting together occupyMN and editing 3 on-line paper.li’s of RESISTANCE) to say – so’s ya know – YES! YES! YES! Like! Like! Like! in the sense no one else says is well. Thank you again from my <3 – all you posters here.
Well, thanks, Virginia, for the lovely supportive comments — and there is a “Like” button at the bottom of every article, which seems to feed into some gigantic accumulator — it’s on 363,000 Likes right now!
Malcolm Bush wrote:
We should be aware that this execution always had success built into it. Now that he is dead the whole thing will fade from memories and that is that. We all should follow Micheal Moore’s ideology and have an even bigger campaign now. It is a case of make the campaign grow or loose, precisely according the scenario envisaged by the authorities.
Yes, I think you’re right, Malcolm, but sadly it’s difficult to keep people motivated. I would encourage people to keep an eye on executions planned for the future, and to keep mobilizing against them.
Dejanka Bryant wrote:
Yes, Andy, your last post is very important, as is Malcolm’s. Thanks to Facebook, I recently learnt from my American friends about the case of Mumia Abu-Jamal. You can find that horrific story here:
There is no doubt, I am going to be on demo in London, protesting against the unfair and unjust trial that was clearly staged against this innocent man. It is truly devastating to read how his defence attorneys deliberately hid affidavits and statements from witnesses, never ever asking for ballistic evidence that could prove his innocence. I have now clearer picture what happened to Troy Davis, after reading numerous court documents about him. His attorney refused to call the most crucial witness who could have saved his life. Failure to do that led to his execution. With Mumia, the same happened. I am really pleased that he has now a new Legal Defence Team, an independent one.
Thanks, Dejanka, for highlighting another case of injustice — that of Mumia Abu-Jamal.
As a reminder, this is Amnesty International’s page detailing planned executions:
And this is Clive Stafford Smith’s article about the execution of the first man on that list, Manuel Valle, executed in Florida after 33 years on death row, even though Justice Breyer managed to voice some complaints about that at the last minute — but not enough:
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